Historical Records of Samut Prakan

When reading these contemporary reports of travels to Thailand a hundred or more years ago, we need to understand that many of these writers took their prejudices with them. They often misinterpreted what they saw and weren’t always very sympathetic about the local people. These days we are taught to be politically correct and so, when we read these accounts, it can at times shock us, if not completely cause us embarrassment. However, we have no choice but to sift through these old books to try and gleam any historical facts that we can.

NOTES: Foreigners at the time always referred to the present day Chao Phraya River as “Meinam River” as if that was its real name. However, “meinam” simply means “river” and there were many of them. In those days, the port of entry for anyone arriving in Thailand was Paknam. A few miles off the river mouth they encountered a “bar” which was a large sandbank exposed at high tide. This provided the Siamese people with a natural line of defence. It was imperative for any ship to stop here and wait for a pilot to guide them up river. According to this account, Paknam itself was 3-4 miles from the river mouth. Here there were forts on both sides of the river and on a small island in the middle. In addition, there was a barrier stretched across the river. They had to stop here to seek permission to proceed. They estimated that the distance from here to Bangkok was about 40 miles and that the average width of the river was three quarters of a mile. It took them six and a half hours to reach Bangkok from Paknam. Along the way they saw houses on floating rafts and on stilts. They also saw thousands of fire-flies that lit up the night.